Surge Protection Testing thread - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 57 Old 08-31-2017, 08:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Surge Protection Testing thread

Goal: To see which products work and which products just "pretend" to work.
(i.e. protect.)

I have access via my work to some aged hardware. Mostly entry level APC, CyberPower, generic power strips,
and some things we can protect (i.e. destroy).

Was thinking of building a zapper; and well... zapping them with it. See what they do!
I just really like blowing stuff up MythBuster style.
(Don't know... Don't care... )

and because: Marketing departments lie!

I've personally used or been around these products: APC, CyberPower, PS Audio and SurgeX. From 6ft 2000lb rack-units to small wall-warts.
But we get like "zero" storms here to subject stuff to anything harmful. (I'll die waiting for a storm...)

This is gonna be a back-burner thread because: it is both dangerous and expensive to do, and I'm starting from zero and getting paid zero for it.

Probably the first thing I should do is go buy a variac to test under/over voltage. (durr)

and as-always: I started this thread WAY TOO early. Over-promising and Under-delivering years in advance, just like Emotiva.

So while we wait:
Any horror stories with various brands are welcomed!
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post #2 of 57 Old 08-31-2017, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by BassThatHz View Post
I've personally used or been around these products: APC, CyberPower, PS Audio and SurgeX. From 6ft 2000lb rack-units to small wall-warts.
But we get like "zero" storms here to subject stuff to anything harmful. (I'll die waiting for a storm...)

Zero Surge, SurgeX, Brickwall (anything series mode) is the only type of device that will survive a real surge and live to protect your equipment. Most of the other stuff uses MOVs that are sacrificial. Not a good "protective" device as you never know when it has absorbed too much and is useless. Not to mention, some, when overloaded, will even explode and start a fire. Not very "protective."

Living in FL, we get lightning strikes daily in the summer (most of the year). I learned my lesson the hard way. Lightning struck close to my house. I had TrippLite, APC & Cyberpower devices throughout the house and a Brickwall on my main rig. EVERYTHING in the house got nuked, except my main setup. The Brickwall and everything behind it survived. All of the other "surge" protectors died and took my electronics with them. TVs, PCs and stereos all damaged partially, or completely.
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post #3 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 10:11 AM
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I actually worked as an intern for Cutler Hammer doing just this. Testing vacuum arrestors to see what works.

You won't be able to test these. You cannot create a lightning level zap in your home safely. Our lab was a bunker with numerous protections and our lightning proxy involved our own power plant and a room full of shoe box sized capacitors connected in series parallel to get up to the massive 1 billion volt and 200,000 amp strike. In fact. We couldn't reach that and it was more like 200 million volts at 5000 amps. Far below a bad direct lightning strike. I'll also add there are zero devices on the market that can protect against a direct lightning strike. If your ground or power service is hit just hope there is no fire and have good insurance. Lightning is strong enough to jump over these protective devices. They protect against relatively small spikes. Lightning itself is just too powerful. A commercial vacuum arrestor is over a foot long and it too can't protect against really bad lightning.


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post #4 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 10:28 AM
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Thanks for starting this thread. I will following as I am curious to folks experiences/knowledge on this subject.

I found this article quite interesting while I was doing some "research" (aka searches):

http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-surge-protector/

I use 3 of the Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL in my house. It can't be all bad as they claim a "Lifetime Warranty and $150,000 Ultimate Lifetime Insurance for connected devices". I do like the fact that once this thing becomes "useless" (no longer "protects"), it will stop feeding power to all connected devices informing you that it needs replacement. I think the price isn't all that bad either for what it is. I do, however, question the insurance part of it as I am not sure how they would have any way of proving that a device that got smoked was actually connected to their unit.

I wish more companies would share and be more straightforward of the clamping voltage of their product, instead of one having to dig up thousands of reviews to see if anyone was able to figure out that particular spec.

Side note: I am not way, shape, or form, associated with this product or company.

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post #5 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zeus33 View Post
Living in FL, we get lightning strikes daily in the summer (most of the year). I learned my lesson the hard way. Lightning struck close to my house. I had TrippLite, APC & Cyberpower devices throughout the house and a Brickwall on my main rig. EVERYTHING in the house got nuked, except my main setup. The Brickwall and everything behind it survived. All of the other "surge" protectors died and took my electronics with them. TVs, PCs and stereos all damaged partially, or completely.
Sounds like you had a bad experience. In particular, I am curious to the Tripplite you were using. Could you give some more info on that? I would appreciate it.

Cheers.
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post #6 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 10:41 AM
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Oh and here are my horror stories. When I was in grad school at Purdue i rented a duplex/town house. I had my stereo setup plugged into two SurgeX surge suppressor. My house took a direct strike of lightning. The outlets had plasma shoot out of them as did my speakers. The SurgEX devices were a molten mess inside and I lost a plasma tv, $10,000 worth of speakers, my preamp, amp, a bedroom LCD tv and DVD player, and various other things. I put in an insurance claim with my renters insurance which covered the loss of electronics in full.

Just last week my neighborhood had at least three homes struck by lightning. All lost their electronics and indicated the surge suppressor didn't work. One had a Leviton whole home surge suppressor that was vaporized internally. They are all getting insurance coverage for the repairs. I've been told some even need new wiring run to some of the outlets. Witnesses claim to have also seen plasma shoot from the outlets. Witnesses also claim to have seen the strikes and that they hit light posts in front of their house. My best guess is that the electricity must have traveled through the power lines and into the houses through the distribution hubs. I had thought that those used vacuum arrestors so either my town is cheap and didn't use them or I'm wrong and the electric company does not provide protection to homes through their grid.


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post #7 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 10:50 AM
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One last thing since I did have unique experience blowing things up with artificial lightning. The type of suppressor that is used in better devices is called an SM or Series Mode suppressor. We tested giant versions of these. These were also what we built to protect our test equipment. Here is what I learned. They are the best option for maximum surge protection. They will not protect against a direct lightning strike, only vacuum arrestors can do that. The manufactures who use them make false claims about their speed and ability to protect against lightning. In our lab we used both MOV's and SM for protection together. When I asked the lead engineer why, he said that MOV's work more quickly and provide an extra layer of protection. We also included gas discharge arrestors locally on some test rigs. These are not the same as vacuum arrestors, which are sacrificial in nature.


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post #8 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpoes12 View Post
Oh and here are my horror stories. When I was in grad school at Purdue i rented a duplex/town house. I had my stereo setup plugged into two SurgeX surge suppressor. My house took a direct strike of lightning. The outlets had plasma shoot out of them as did my speakers. The SurgEX devices were a molten mess inside and I lost a plasma tv, $10,000 worth of speakers, my preamp, amp, a bedroom LCD tv and DVD player, and various other things. I put in an insurance claim with my renters insurance which covered the loss of electronics in full.

Just last week my neighborhood had at least three homes struck by lightning. All lost their electronics and indicated the surge suppressor didn't work. One had a Leviton whole home surge suppressor that was vaporized internally. They are all getting insurance coverage for the repairs. I've been told some even need new wiring run to some of the outlets. Witnesses claim to have also seen plasma shoot from the outlets. Witnesses also claim to have seen the strikes and that they hit light posts in front of their house. My best guess is that the electricity must have traveled through the power lines and into the houses through the distribution hubs. I had thought that those used vacuum arrestors so either my town is cheap and didn't use them or I'm wrong and the electric company does not provide protection to homes through their grid.


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If you rely on your electric company to protect from all lightning strikes you'll be disappointed.

Whole house protectors will protect against lightning strikes that are at a sufficient distance. Lightning is often modeled as having a frequency of 1 MHz. Once in a wire the voltage will fall off at about 20 to 25 volts per inch due to the inductance of the wire, but unfortunately starts at a very high voltage!

Close up strikes will arc through the air around about any obstacle, and home devices aren't rated to protect against such strikes. A whole house protector in or near your service entrance panel, combined with protection at your electronics is as good as you can do. Eaton and Square D both offer a selection of whole house protectors, either to mount in your service entrance panel or very close to it. As an example, the Eaton panel mount surge protection devices that replace double full-height 240V breakers in Eaton service entrance panels are very easy to install if you have the room.

Here is more than you'll likely ever want to know about the subject:

http://www.eaton.com/ecm/idcplg?IdcS...me=SA01005003E
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post #9 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 12:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigguyca View Post
If you rely on your electric company to protect from all lightning strikes you'll be disappointed.



Whole house protectors will protect against lightning strikes that are at a sufficient distance. Lightning is often modeled as having a frequency of 1 MHz. Once in a wire the voltage will fall off at about 20 to 25 volts per inch due to the inductance of the wire, but unfortunately starts at a very high voltage!



Close up strikes will arc through the air around about any obstacle, and home devices aren't rated to protect against such strikes. A whole house protector in or near your service entrance panel, combined with protection at your electronics is as good as you can do. Eaton and Square D both offer a selection of whole house protectors, either to mount in your service entrance panel or very close to it. As an example, the Eaton panel mount surge protection devices that replace double full-height 240V breakers in Eaton service entrance panels are very easy to install if you have the room.



Here is more than you'll likely ever want to know about the subject:



http://www.eaton.com/ecm/idcplg?IdcS...me=SA01005003E


Cutler Hammer is an Easton company and that is who I interned with. Those devices do not protect against the kinds of lightning strikes that I mentioned happening recently. I agree that they are the best protection a consumer can have. In my own experience with lightning strikes, I seem to have been well enough protected that the scenarios that did kill electronics were those for which a fairly direct strike took place and nothing would offer protection.

It is my belief that the best protection is just good insurance. I have all my electronics on surge suppressor and when we did the theater I installed an eaton made device on the main panel. I also upped my coverage on my homeowners insurance. I don't have a lot of faith in these devices. Our artificial lightning lab was like 1/10 a real lightning strike and still blew up everything we put in there. The only devices that lasted were vacuum arrestors designed for power lines.

I'm not an electrical engineer and this isn't an area of expertise for me, it was just an internship, I just remember what we tested.


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post #10 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 04:36 PM - Thread Starter
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The SurgeX Envision does 110 and 130v cut off, which is the tightest range I've seen yet.

I won't be generating a lightning bolt in my house, that's for sure...

Just doing some basic: UV, OV, OL, in-rush, and surge testing.

For surges I was thinking: 400V metered on my Fluke 43B which is rated for 1250V.

and then maybe a 1000V surge unmetered.

Obviously if the products die we may not capture all the data, so... we'd want to start with the safest tests first, and leave the surges to the very end.

The chance of fire is very high, so all tests will be conducted outside, well away from burnable things.
Fire extinguisher and kill switch on the ready.

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post #11 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Up first we have an: APC ES 350, 500 and 550 to torture.

These things cost about $50-100 new.

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post #12 of 57 Old 09-01-2017, 09:30 PM
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So I guess I'm a little confused. What are you hoping to test at such low voltages? Wouldn't those kinds of surges either be minor lightning incidents or really more surges from poorly designed electronics in your house? I would imagine that any surge suppressor could manage 1000v without issue.

I'm also curious how you are producing a 1000v surge in your home? That still is a sizable zap.

If you haven't played with this kind of electricity before please protect yourself and treat it seriously. Especially if you build your own series capacitor array. I have so many dumb horror stories of what can happen when you don't give it the respect it deserves.

The thing that people screwed up in labs the most when I worked with high voltage was forgetting to build in safety devices like a means to discharge the capacitor slowly or including a circuit breaker. I welded a screwdriver to a capacitor and shot molten steel into the ceiling. It missed my faces by inches. All because I forgot to add a bleed off resistor and needed to discharge a fully charged capacitor array holding just about 1000 volts around a half million microfarads of capacitance.


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post #13 of 57 Old 09-03-2017, 10:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AUDIOandME View Post
Sounds like you had a bad experience. In particular, I am curious to the Tripplite you were using. Could you give some more info on that? I would appreciate it.

Cheers.

Sorry, that was years ago. I have no idea what the model was. It wasn't anything special. It was around $50. IIRC, it had 8 outlets and the coax connections. Rated for a few thousand joules.

It wasn't anything wrong with the TL, it was just too much juice for it to handle. It also nuked the APC (supposed to be "the best") and Cyberpower devices that I had. Living in FL, we have much different surge requirements than the rest of the country.
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post #14 of 57 Old 09-04-2017, 11:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpoes12 View Post
What are you hoping to test at such low voltages? Wouldn't those kinds of surges either be minor lightning incidents?
I'm also curious how you are producing a 1000v surge in your home? That still is a sizable zap.
A lot of products claim that they handle UV and OV, some even having AVR or at least cut-off values.
That will be tested. (I'd imagine that most basic UPS's will provide the UV/OV, but perhaps not AVR).

Then there are surges, which a lot of products claim to provide "some amount" of protection against, often rated in joules.

Obviously nothing can survive a direct lightning strike, nor is it feasible to generate such a surge.

More likely is that your grid will be hit by a strike upstream, and some amount of that surge voltage will make it to your house.
These are the types of surges that people are "hoping" that their device can "protect" against.
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I would imagine that any surge suppressor could manage 1000v without issue.
We will see about that


As for the "how":
I was thinking series capacitors. Off grid, outside. Which the devices in the off-state.

On-state surges could be more tricky... and more expensive.
Perhaps a gas generator and a isolation transformer to protect the genny, or perhaps I should buy a SurgeX to protect it.

Certainly not gonna do it in my house, with my house grid. LOL
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post #15 of 57 Old 09-04-2017, 02:02 PM - Thread Starter
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I have another device that I'd like to test:

The SSR's in my power controller. These are supposed to have over 2000v of isolation from line to DC, and 4000v of isolation from grid to line in the off-state. As I understand it at least...
Might be worth blowing one to determine what it can do.


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Then there are surges, which a lot of products claim to provide "some amount" of protection against, often rated in joules.

Obviously nothing can survive a direct lightning strike, nor is it feasible to generate such a surge.

More likely is that your grid will be hit by a strike upstream, and some amount of that surge voltage will make it to your house.
These are the types of surges that people are "hoping" that their device can "protect" against.


We will see about that
^ This.


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post #17 of 57 Old 09-05-2017, 06:58 PM
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A lot of products claim that they handle UV and OV, some even having AVR or at least cut-off values.

That will be tested. (I'd imagine that most basic UPS's will provide the UV/OV, but perhaps not AVR).



Then there are surges, which a lot of products claim to provide "some amount" of protection against, often rated in joules.



Obviously nothing can survive a direct lightning strike, nor is it feasible to generate such a surge.



More likely is that your grid will be hit by a strike upstream, and some amount of that surge voltage will make it to your house.

These are the types of surges that people are "hoping" that their device can "protect" against.





We will see about that





As for the "how":

I was thinking series capacitors. Off grid, outside. Which the devices in the off-state.



On-state surges could be more tricky... and more expensive.

Perhaps a gas generator and a isolation transformer to protect the genny, or perhaps I should buy a SurgeX to protect it.



Certainly not gonna do it in my house, with my house grid. LOL


We protected our lab equipment and lightning proxy with varistors. Lots of them!

The only surges that have damaged my equipment so far were pretty serious. Damaging outlets, wiring, and frying the surge suppressor. I guess I can't say they were direct lightning strikes. I don't know what was hit with lightning. I just know the end effect. In the scenario I shared from my neighbors, they witnessed the light polls being hit, which are both upstream and supposedly isolated from the homes. However I'm now questioning this and wonder if vacuum arrestors aren't used as much as I think.

Well I look forward to what you find. I still suggest being very careful.

Remember that series capacitance only increases the voltage rating of the capacitor array, you still need to generate the 1000 volts. I was curious how you planned to up the voltage to 1000 volts. There are some transformers and ballasts you could use but I think the current would be too low to be of use.


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post #18 of 57 Old 09-05-2017, 07:09 PM
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post #19 of 57 Old 09-05-2017, 07:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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I think the current would be too low to be of use.
Don't be silly... That's not how capacitors work!
If you have 1000volts DC, then charge is a function of Time, not Amperes.

Unless I failed Physics 12...
(which I didn't... )
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post #20 of 57 Old 09-05-2017, 07:30 PM
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If lightning can punch through a wall of a house good luck fighting it. The advice I was always given was unplug any devices you don't want to lose. It might work.

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post #21 of 57 Old 09-05-2017, 08:05 PM
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Off grid, then are you going to drive a ground rod to connect the protection ground to? Just curious. We used to service a computer system on a resort island where the lightning was so bad it literally carbonized phone lines for hundreds of feet, the copper would just be black crusty stuff. Needless to say they fried huge piles of electronics on a regular basis.


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post #22 of 57 Old 09-05-2017, 10:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Good point! I suppose "I should" punch a ground rod to be more fair to the component under test.
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post #23 of 57 Old 09-07-2017, 06:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Well bad news for APC owners:

As you can see... the Ground, Neutral and Hot are connected directly to the output pins from the wallsocket.



This means it offers no high-voltage DC or UHF AC protection. It will certainly kill the attached device,
and you if you are touching the metal chassis at the time of the surge it will likely kill you as well...
[Yes... even with the APC turned off and the protected device turned off!]

14awg 15A wire as a flash-current of about ~4000amps... (and an untold number of volts), therefore PLENTY of power could "potentially" get through those wires before the wire itself melted. More than enough to kill a DAC, PC, TV or a person, etc etc.

Hot to Neutral has an HF choke and a MOV cap (which would only help if the surge current was flowing through that path only.)

As this is the more expensive model, the 550, I won't even bother opening the cheaper APC units.

As for the guts, it appears to have a 12V to 120V step-up transformer for the battery, and a basic step-mod inverter, and an overload reset switch for the hot.


I'm not actually surprised by any of this.
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post #24 of 57 Old 09-07-2017, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Wait a second, am I reading this right?

The "protected" side isn't protected at all (always on), and the UPS side is merely piggy backing off that...



Tell me I'm on crack, tell me this isn't so Batman...
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post #25 of 57 Old 09-08-2017, 02:02 AM
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Any chance you could test a Tripplite Ibar 12/20 ultra?

https://www.amazon.com/Tripp-Lite-20.../dp/B00006B82X
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post #26 of 57 Old 09-08-2017, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
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If you have one you should take it apart and post the images for review. It's amazing what you can learn just with that. Anything bad should be obvious.

In fact everyone should...
(just don't electrocute yourself or void warranties).
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post #27 of 57 Old 09-08-2017, 04:29 PM
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Your standard APC and TrippLite units work in standby mode only-- they will handle a blackout by switching to battery, but they can't adjust voltage from a brownout without switching over to battery. Fancier UPSes work in line-interactive mode and can handle brownouts or over-voltage conditions via auto voltage regulation (AVR). However, neither of these types actually provides full galvanic isolation between the source and the load.

In order to get that, you need to go to a full double-conversion aka "online" design, which has the source always converting to DC and the DC-to-AC inverter always running, which implies the inverter needs to handle full rated load for the lifetime of the unit and generate a clean sine wave, rather than the inverter only running infrequently and not for longer than the batteries last.

For residential purposes, I'd suggest getting a NEMA / UL 1449 rated TVSS at the service entrance and then use UPSes for specific equipment as needed.
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post #28 of 57 Old 09-08-2017, 09:11 PM
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post #29 of 57 Old 09-09-2017, 03:56 AM - Thread Starter
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I've been wanting a house-whole protector for 10 years now.

That said, in the last 10 years we've only had 4 lightning storms. The rockies and cascade mountains push all the water out of the clouds from north, south, east and west. Only the biggest clouds make it here.
The only things that grow here are cacti, sagebrush, and the strongest of trees.

My house has 3 panels, a 200amp main panel and two 100amp sub-panels feeding off of that.
There is LOTS of free space in the 200amp mains panel, enough for a second kitchen, a hot tub, a pool, and still have room for a whole-house protector.

The power company said I could upgrade to 300 or 400amp service if I needed it.
If I buy a Tesla or other electric car, a 400amp panel will be required FOR SURE (at least... if I want it to quick-charge that is.)


I checked the SurgeX's we have at work, and they have absorbed 10 surges in just the last 4 weeks.
They get WAY more lightning there than I get back home, and they have 5hittier power grid too (heavier usage etc.)

I was thinking of maybe buying two SurgeX's for my house:
1) a cheap $40 PCS one that I could torture: https://www.amazon.com/ESP-SurgeX-XG.../dp/B00ON3G6EE
2) an $190 Envision to protect my low-power theater stack: https://www.amazon.com/ESP-enVision-.../dp/B00PDD2KYI

They both have the same features as the $2000 SurgeX models, so I see no point in buying those.
I might buy 8 of the 20a PCS's to protect my pro-amps, not sure yet! Depends on the test results!!!

All of this would be in addition to the whole-house unit.
My theater alone is worth $120,000, and my main house even-more, so spending $2000 on some GOOD surge protection is really worth the peace of mind.
House insurance is great (which I have), but you still have to fork out the deductible and your rates will go up if called upon!
Best to at least "try" to prevent electrical damage than have to call upon it early when it could have been prevented or avoided with a small up-front investment in some protection.

Right now my low-power stuff is protected by a CyberPower 2200VA puresine.
My high-power is unprotected, as is the rest of the house!

In fact, after seeing panamax and surgex youtube vids of what MOV-based stripbars do when they die (i.e. they catch on FIRE) , I feel like putting the $40 SurgeX units in front of the rare few that I do have in my house.

I don't think I'll ever use another MOV-based product again. I knew they were entry-level protection devices, like: since forever, but I didn't know that they can and will explode in a ball of flames in your house 8 times out of 10!!!

Last edited by BassThatHz; 09-09-2017 at 04:03 AM.
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post #30 of 57 Old 09-09-2017, 08:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LTD02 View Post
Yup, that's the right general idea. Schneider makes pretty decent equipment, although I prefer Leviton or maybe Eaton/PowerWare.

Most residential users (in the US, anyway) get 120/240V 3-wire split-phase power at the service entrance.

Larger buildings / apartment complexes and the like might get 3-phase "wye" 4-wire instead at 480Y/277V which is used directly for HVAC and large lighting banks and use stepdown transformers to provide 208Y/120V for outlets and normal equipment-- ie, individual units in an apartment complex would be getting 2 phases with 208V between phases and the usual 120V between phase and neutral.

Search your local power company for their "service conditions" document; for example:

https://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_RULES_2.pdf

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